Empty Cities: China’s phony construction boom

In the world’s most populated country there are dozens of empty cities and more are being built every year. Is China’s ‘build-mentality’ good urban forward planning or an economic bubble that’s about to burst?

Take for instance the city of Tianduchenga, a near deserted replica of Paris complete with its own Eiffel Tower, which was meant to attract new residents and businesses. But the new businesses are struggling to survive. “There aren’t many people here; our business is volume-based”, says the owner of a takeaway lunch shop.

Meanwhile, in the Lanzhou New Area a range of 700 mountains has been leveled and demolition of houses and forced relocation is underway to make space for a new 130,000 hectare metropolis. According to Li Tie, who heads the country’s top economic planning agency, the federal government “must stop any fanatical actions by local authorities who blindly and hastily implement unreasonable urbanisation measures”.

But urbanisation expert Tom Miller rejects the claim that China is on the brink of a property crisis. “Imagine China as bubble wrap. Some of those bubbles within it might burst. But in places like Shanghai there is massive demand for housing.”

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